There was once an annoying foundation-skin care paradox. You’d wear foundation to even out your complexion and present a radiant, unblemished canvas — but, by doing so, you usually ran the risk of clogging your pores and worsening skin conditions. It’s a vicious cycle that the beauty industry has been addressing, in part, with the proliferation of serum foundations.
The hybrid product category is the future of cosmetics — not only should your foundation avoid adding to any skin woes, but it should also, you know, do something for you while it’s on your face all day. And the world of serum foundations, which streamline your skin care and makeup routines, get dermatologists’ stamp of approval for doing just that. Within the formulas are the same buzzy ingredients you know and love in your serums, like vitamin C and ceramides, so your complexion gets nourished as you get coverage.
Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Dr. Loretta Skincare, tells Bustle she’s a fan of serum foundations. One thing to keep in mind, though? Don’t fully rely on them for a skin transformation. “Theoretically, if the actives are at levels that have been proven to be beneficial, there should be visible improvement seen,” she says. The caveat is that most lines don’t disclose how much of these actives are in the formula, she explains, which makes it difficult to tell if the foundation will have noticeable effects on your complexion in the long term. So even if your coverage product contains beneficial ingredients, don’t skimp out on the rest of your skin care routine if you’re targeting specific concerns or conditions.
Serum foundations often have SPF for added sun protection, but they’ll also include plenty of your fave serum ingredients (hence the name). You can find everything from hydration boosters — think hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe vera — to all-star antioxidants (like vitamin C and hibiscus extract), anti-inflammatories (turmeric and marula oil, for example) and anti-aging essentials like niacinamide and ceramides. But if you’re used to the full, long-lasting coverage you get from traditional foundations, keep in mind these hybrid formulas are a bit different: “While the benefits are treating your skin, the downfall is that long-wear and coverage aren’t like a classic foundation,” says Lori Taylor Davis lead makeup artist of Smashbox Cosmetics.
Product application can differ from your run-of-the-mill foundations as well. According to Taylor Davis, these serum-like formulas are essentially skin care with pigment. “So the application is similar to how you apply your skin care,” she tells Bustle. Pro tip: “Use the warmth of your fingertips to help spread the product naturally, and also to help the skin care elements melt into your complexion,” says Taylor Davis.
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A Hydrating Cover-Up
Foundation sometimes goes against its purpose by drying skin and making it flakey, all of which is emphasized by the pigment. Lys’ serum foundation, however, is packed with hyaluronic acid and avocado oil to ensure your skin remains supple and hydrated. The formula also purportedly helps treat dark spots, thanks to antioxidant-rich turmeric, so pick this one if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation.
A Skin Care-First Tint
Typology’s product is a serum meant for boosting hydration, restoring the skin barrier (via squalane), and evening out the complexion. It just so happens that it also comes in different tinted shades, which amplify the luminosity as they blur any redness or breakouts.
An Inclusive Glow-Giver
Ami Cole is a very new brand that already seems to be everywhere on the Internet. The shades were created with melanin-rich skin tones in mind, which means you don’t have to worry about undertones that turn you green. The key actives in the formula are pumpkin seed extract and hibiscus flower extract — the former is rich in vitamin E for moisture and battling free radicals, while the latter is packed with antioxidants that defend your epidermis from environmental aggressors.
The Cult Favorite
You would be forgiven if Saie’s Slip Tint went under your radar during your search for a serum foundation — the words serum and skin care are nowhere to be seen. The ingredient list, however, is another story: There’s licorice to aid with discoloration and hyperpigmentation, pansy flower extract to help soothe irritated or eczema-prone skin, and aloe vera for added hydration. Oh, and it’s got SPF. The result is a makeup-skin care hybrid for even the most sensitive complexions.
A Multi-Use Skin Care Product With Coverage
Iris & Romeo’s contribution to the product category is the most streamlined and multitasking combo out there. It’s a sunscreen, blue light blocker, collagen-boosting serum, moisturizer, and foundation (whew). Although it advertises sheer coverage, Best Skin Days is buildable — so the flexibility is an added bonus.